New AFSS System Faces Growing Pains

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Despite occasional complaints from pilots about long hold times, Lockheed Martin's new Automated Flight Service Stations are working pretty well overall, according to Program Manager Dan Courain. "At times, when the weather is bad, there have been some long wait times," Courain told AVweb on Tuesday. "We're limited in staffing. We try to offload the calls but sometimes we do get behind." Overall, the average wait time is just 19 seconds, he said, but about 2 percent of callers hang up without getting through. New technology that will come on line early next year should resolve the sporadic back-up issues, Courain said. AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy told AVweb that when pilots do complain, Lockheed Martin has been "very responsive." AFSS staff shortages are being addressed, with about 50 new staffers already deployed and more in training, Dancy said. Upgrades due to be implemented in February should reduce wait times to virtually zero by the time the system is fully deployed next October, Courain said. Dancy added that wait-time issues have tended to occur in the summer, when more people are flying, and he expects the problem to drop off as winter arrives and more pilots keep their airplanes grounded. "By next year, as flying weather improves, pilots should expect to see continued improvements with the new system, full staffing and better briefing tools," Dancy said.